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Natalie Held

Why Living at Home for Remote Learning has Made Me More Critical of College Dorms

When I started college, I never expected that nearly half of my college career would be spent learning from home. My experience with home learning has been both a blessing and a curse. It has declined my social life to a solid couple of people, but it’s made me realize and understand the life of those students who live close to their campuses, or the ones who sign up for online learning. It’s also helped me become more critical of how my life was in a dorm, and how much I let certain things slide while on campus. 

Since Fall 2019, I have lived in college dorms on two different campuses: a state-funded school, and a private school. So that means I know what it’s like to live in both spectrums of dorm rooms. Both dorms did not have air conditioning, and neither allowed for personal air conditioners, except for those with medical conditions. Both didn’t have backup generators in case of power outages (I learned this the hard way on both campuses, I have bad luck, I guess). These contributing factors can make dorm living slightly uncomfortable, especially in very hot weather. Luckily, upstate New York doesn’t get too hot most of the time. I am fortunate enough to have air conditioning at home, and I usually contribute to paying the electric bill in order to have this luxury. But, for the amount of money these colleges get, shouldn’t they at least try to get students a more comfortable living environment? [bf_image id="6zp8r9b655nvz5cp8hfp63v"]

Before attending college, I never had the experience of living with roommates. I’ve never had to share a room with my one sibling, and I feel grateful for not having to do that. But, it did take me some time to adjust to having roommates. I sometimes felt that my privacy was being invaded, or I was being woken up too much, but in reality, I just wasn’t used to the roommate experience. By Fall 2020, when I returned to campus for a solid six weeks, I was fine with handling roommates, and got along with them very well. When I came back home for the remainder of Fall 2020, and now the Spring 2021 semester, I realized how oddly quiet learning alone can be. It feels like you’re redoing an adjustment all over again. It feels as if I’m not actually learning most of the time, I’m just redoing a routine in my head that I can’t go against. But I also became grateful for the space, especially in the time of COVID-19. My four-person dorm room was a lot smaller than what we had expected in Fall 2020, so it was not only alarming, but also slightly disappointing. When I came home, I felt less compressed. I’m at the point in my life where I truly value space and alone time; I may only be 19, but I sometimes have the mentality of a 30-40 year old.

Along with being grateful for my alone space, I’m also grateful to not be sharing common spaces with others. Having to share a bathroom with a whole hallway of people was always a nightmare for me. As someone who is a borderline germaphobe, using the communal showers was/is a frightening experience at times. I do understand that as you get further into your college experience, the more “comfortable” the dorm living gets (ex: having to share a bathroom with 1-3 roommates rather than a whole hall), but should it matter what grade level you’re at? I just remember the many times I walked into a shower and saw a clump of hair just chilling on the stall walls and floor. I was critical of it even during the time I spent in the dorms, but I’m even more critical of it now. If you’re using a communal bathroom, remember that other people use it too!

Since being remote, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to continue my local job: substitute teaching at my local elementary school. Does it have anything to do with my major? No, not at all actually, but I absolutely love my job (most of the time). It makes me grateful to see the joy of learning in children’s faces, and it makes me feel inspired to work harder in my learning, too. It’s one thing I’ll truly miss when I move back to campus. So why am I critical of this portion? Well, lets just say you don’t have a car on campus, and you don’t qualify for work-study opportunities on campus. How likely are you to get a job while at school? For me, it was pretty limited. I didn’t have a car on campus, and I just barely didn’t qualify for work-study. I also had a weird schedule, so that limited my opportunity to make any extra money. Now, while at home, I have at least two days a week to either work, or get assignments done, and it makes me feel more relaxed and determined to get stuff done. 

One thing that I really miss is the availability of food. Yes, I have enough food at home, but can you imagine getting a salad or any meal item at 10 at night at home? I can’t! My parents would think I’m crazy. I miss ordering my late-night wraps and sushi, or even getting food off-campus. I live in the middle of nowhere, the best food we’ve got is McDonald’s (and that’s still 20 minutes away from my house). I also miss being able to walk to a Starbucks...their Matcha Latte really gets me through hours of assignments. [bf_image id="q7k3cg-664vcg-a00a27"]

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve realized that my priorities were in the wrong places. I cared more about convenience and speed, but now, I enjoy the comforts of life. Is it nice to be able to just walk to class? Yes, it’s speedy and convenient, but do I also value having me-time, as well as comfortable living? Also yes. For most students, there needs to be a balance of the two sides in living. Has this whole experience of living at home for college been an eye-opener in regards to college way of life? 100 percent. I feel like I can proudly say that I can be critical of the right things, and more chill about the unimportant things. 

So if dorm living isn’t right for you, that’s perfectly okay! I’m on the borderline of liking it and hating it. But living at home has made me more open to looking at what was right and wrong about dorm living, as well as looking at other opportunities to live out my college life. 

Madison Savage is a Senior at Siena College. She is currently majoring in Marketing with a concentration in Strategic Human Resource Management. She hopes to one day be either a cosmetics marketer for Sephora or Colourpop Cosmetics, or a fashion journalist for Vogue. Her passions and hobbies include doing makeup, fashion, skiing, and writing.
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